Experts: Unrest in Ukraine is 'well-planned' Kremlin provocation


On-going shootings and attacks on government buildings in eastern Ukraine are part of the Kremlin's federalisation effort to control the whole country, analysts and officials say.

By Rati Mujiri for Southeast European Times -- 09/04/14


A militant wearing a cagoule guards a barricade in front of the Donetsk regional administration building on Tuesday (April 8th). [AFP]

Pro-Moscow demonstrations in three eastern Ukrainian cities were being encouraged by the Kremlin as part of a concerted effort to destabilise the former Soviet republic, the government in Kiev and regional analysts said.

"This is very well-planned provocation. The scenario has been written in the Kremlin by [Russia's President] Vladimir Putin. Now Russian intelligence service and its spies are trying to repeat the Crimean scenario," Sergey Gaiday, political consultant and managing partner of the Public Debate project of the Foundation for Effective Governance in Kiev, told SETimes.

Pro-Russian protesters attacked and occupied regional government buildings in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv on Sunday (April 6th) and declared a "people's republic," calling for a referendum on secession from Ukraine.

"Seizure of administrative buildings, demand of freedom and referendum, we have seen all that couple of weeks ago in Crimea. Now they want to make the same in other regions of Ukraine," Gaiday said. "These are people who are paid by Russian intelligence service. According to information I have, there are 25,000 people who have crossed Russian-Ukrainian border in recent weeks. They will make everything to escalate situation. There will be bloodshed, will be provocations and after that, Kremlin will say that they must defend Russian-speaking population, because Kiev can't do it. Russian troops will enter. They are already at the borders of our country."

NATO has warned the Kremlin of "grave consequences" to its relationship with the West if it intervenes further in Ukraine, but Moscow massed thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border and has suggested that the country be federalised into autonomous regions.

The Kremlin's interference in Ukraine is taking a toll on people in the eastern part of the country.

"The city is full of provocateurs. I don't understand what is happening in my hometown," Ludmila Ivanova, an ethnic Russian of Donetsk, told SETimes. "I'm afraid to go outside. I see lot of foreign people on my street. I don't even want to switch on the TV. The situation is straining every day."

"What we saw on TV weeks ago, now we see in our town," Vasili Grobach of Kharkiv told SETimes. "I want everybody to know that most of residents in Kharkiv don't want to be part of Russia. Even if one day we have a referendum and most of us suddenly 'decide' to become part of Russian Federation, don't trust this referendum."

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said on-going events in Ukraine are "part of Russian operation to destabilise situation in the country."

"The second wave of special operation of the Russian Federation against Ukraine began yesterday," Turchynov said on Monday (April 7th), addressing the Ukrainian population via Rada TV channel. "The goal of it is to destabilise the situation in the state, overthrow authorities, break elections and tear our country into pieces."

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russian troops are still standing near the Ukrainian border.

"The data that Russia withdrew its troops from borders is nothing else but a display of signs that they want to show," Yatsenyuk said during the government meeting on Monday (April 7th). "But the troops are still standing in 30 kilometres from Ukrainian border. The fact is nobody withdrew the troops."

Vladimir Fesenko, head of the Penta Centre for International and Policy Studies in Kiev, said Putin won't give up his push for federalisation.

"Federalisation, or creation of confederation, where Russia will be dominant and Ukraine won't have any rights, is the minimal result Russia wants to reach," Fesenko told SETimes. "The main aim of Russia is to control Ukraine and they don't care about the ways. Putin realised that it won't be easy. That's why he occupied Crimea. Now he moved to the hardest part and decided to create chaos in mainland of Ukraine. He will do his best to move Russian troops to Donetsk, Kharkiv, or any other part of eastern Ukraine."

Analysts called for co-ordination between the Ukrainian government and the West.

"If Ukrainian forces will be able to reveal spies, the plan of Kremlin will fail," Gaiday said. "Official Kiev will show to the whole world that they can defend their interests. It's also necessary to send additional troops with border guards at the Russian border. We understand that the West won't send troops to Ukraine and we don't expect this, but the EU and the United States must put more pressure and sanctions on Russia."

Maja Kociancic, spokesperson for the EU's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, reiterated the EU's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and described the situation in three eastern regions of Ukraine as "alarming."

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"European officials are watching the situation very closely," Kociancic said. "All the political demands in Ukraine should be made in non-violent ways and conformity to the standards and laws of democracy. The presidential elections scheduled for May 25th would be a good forum for this."

"NATO has stopped co-operation with Russia in many practical fields, but there still are diplomatic ways for discussions," Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the assistant secretary general for public diplomacy at NATO, told reporters on Monday (April 7th) during the NATO meeting in Tbilisi. "NATO still considers diplomacy as the only way to fix the problem."

"The moment Russia decides to widen its territorial expansion to the eastern part of Ukraine, that is where the fun ends," Czech President Milos Zeman said in a broadcast on Czech public radio on Sunday (April 6th). "There I would plead not only for the strictest EU sanctions, but even for military readiness of the North Atlantic Alliance, like for example NATO forces entering Ukrainian territory."

What are the most effective steps the West and Ukrainian government to counter outside interference in eastern Ukraine? Join the discussion below.

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